2018-03-07 / Opinion



Jackie Sartoris Jackie Sartoris With trembling hands, the youths drew lots until they numbered 14. As their village watched and wailed, they boarded the black-sailed boat. Upon arrival, they were cast into a labyrinth, murdered, and eaten. Their deaths foretold and accepted, a price to be paid in their modern day.

The deaths of 14 youths and 3 school staff murdered last month in Parkland, Florida were every bit as foretold, every bit as accepted as in the tale of the Minotaur. Since the 13 killed at Columbine, through 26 at Newtown, to the uncountable whose lives were spared at a high school in Texas last week, we know the next school shooting is just over the horizon. At least school shootings matter to us enough to notice.

The daily shootings that take their toll by accident, through domestic violence, to people of color, or in suicides? We pay them little mind. More people than live in the town of Brunswick die every year through gun violence in America. Even excluding gun suicides, more die each year than inhabit the city of Bath. And we care not much about the children lost. 20 children per day on average, shot. Young Americans are 49 times more likely to die from gun violence than their peers in other high-income nations. Of all children lost to gun violence everywhere, more than 9 in 10 of those deaths occur in our country. Most gun-owning families keep a loaded firearm in their home. In most of those homes, firearms are unsecured. Of the children who live there, half know where to find the guns. Left alone, most children will touch a gun, some thinking it a toy. So every other day, a child accidentally shoots someone – usually a family member – with one of those guns. All of the analysis tells us the same dull truth: more guns make us all less safe, including those who purchase them for self-defense.

Gun deaths are completely predictable. They are direct results of the sheer volume of guns in our gun-obsessed culture. But apparently facts are paralyzing, judging by the response of those responsible. In Maine, it’s not gun regulation that has increased, but more freedoms for gun owners. When parents stood up to demand even modest change — background checks for gun purchases, for example — all the NRA had to do was lie, and it was defeated. “It’s a slippery slope to gun confiscation!” shrieked the gun fans. But actually, the slope is quite clearly slipping the other way, adding rights to carry, conceal, and own, as the NRA and their allies whip up fear and sell more guns.

And so, like the parents of the doomed youth of Athens, the grown-ups, mostly, accept the deaths of children like some unavoidable sacrifice. We ritualize each horrible loss, but, mostly, look the other way, hoping to be on the lucky side of the draw. Meanwhile, Columbine was 19 years ago. Every young person, every child in our schools today, grew up in a land where the routine gun murders of children is anticipated and accepted.

As anticipated as in the tale of the Minotaur, where grown-ups accepted the terms and enabled the slaughter. Until, finally, the youth fought back.

Young Athenian Theseus, incredulous and humiliated by his kingdom’s arrangement, volunteered and boarded the black-sailed boat, hoping — albeit without a plan — to end the barbaric ritual. Young Cretan Ariadne provided him a plan and means to succeed: some accounts say a sword to wield, but all say a thread to guide him back out. Together, against the complicity of their elders, the youth ended the slaughter of the young by the Minotaur - overnight.

Like the children of Parkland, Theseus and Ariadne were children of privilege, the offspring of the kings of Athens and Crete. They used that privilege to address injustice, much as we see the children of well-off Parkland meeting with children of color in Chicago, whose pleas concerning gun violence have long gone ignored, and with the survivors of the Pulse massacre, where 49 were slaughtered, mostly people of color, gay and lesbian.

These young people see the world their leaders accept, they see the power of interest groups like the NRA, and they fight back. Who knows what Minotaurs they may slay? So many other loom that threaten their futures: climate change; debt their generation cannot afford; the purloining of natural resources, like water, for profit; the trashing of the oceans; inequality of all kinds.

In Maine, young people who will turn 18 by November’s election can register and vote in the June primary. A vote seems a small thing in a sea of so much to fix. So was that spool of thread.

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